The scenic road is re­open­ing a month ear­lier than last year, due to less snow fall­ing this win­ter in the Sierra Ne­vada

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - By Paul Rogers progers@ba­yare­anews­

Tioga Road, the fa­bled route through Yosemite Na­tional Park’s scenic high coun­try and the high­est- el­e­va­tion road in Cal­i­for­nia’s state high­way sys­tem, will re­open to ve­hi­cles Mon­day.

The road, which closes ev­ery win­ter due to deep snow, has been closed since Novem­ber. It will open to all ve­hi­cle traf­fic at 9 a.m., park of­fi­cials an­nounced.

The road’s open­ing is some­thing of an an­nual rite of spring, and is an in­di­ca­tion of how much snow the Sierra Ne­vada re­ceived dur­ing the win­ter. Last year, af­ter record snow and rain that

broke Cal­i­for­nia’s five-year drought, the Tioga Road didn’t re- open un­til June 29. The av­er­age open­ing date from 1996 to 2015 was May 26.

All camp­grounds along Tioga Road re­main closed. Park of­fi­cials said Thurs­day that there is no an­tic­i­pated open­ing date for the Tuolumne Mead­ows store and the Tuolumne Mead­ows Vis­i­tor Cen­ter. There is no ga­so­line avail­able along Tioga Road. The clos­est gas sta­tion is lo­cated at Crane Flat. For more in­for­ma­tion about park road con­di­tions, mo­torists can call 209-3720200 or go to https://www.­ourvisit/ con­di­tions.htm.

One of the mar­quee drives in Amer­ica’s na­tional park sys­tem, the wind­ing, two-lane road bi­sects Yosemite’s alpine cen­ter, pass­ing through mead­ows and forests of lodge­pole pine and ju­niper. It runs 46 miles from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass, where it crests at 9,945 feet.

The route for cen­turies was a foot­path for In­di­ans, up­graded to a min­ing road in 1883 dur­ing a brief sil­ver boom, and then a pri­vate toll road that charged $2 per horse and rider.

It be­came pub­lic and part of the park in 1915 when San Fran­cisco na­tive Stephen Mather, the first di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Park Ser­vice, bought it for $15,000 with his own money and do­na­tions from the Sierra Club and the Modesto Chamber of Com­merce. He sold it to Congress that year for $10, hop- ing to bring more tourists into the park.

Yosemite’s Glacier Point Road re- opened to ve­hi­cles on April 28. Ev­ery year, crewswith snow­plows clear each of the two roads, fac­ing snow drifts that can be 20 feet deep and avalanche risks. In 1995, Yosemite em­ployee Bar­ryHance, 43, was killed when an avalanche on Tioga Road smashed into the snow-re­moval ma­chine he was driv­ing.

In his mem­ory, the park pre­sents the Barry Hance Award ev­ery year to the park em­ployee who best demon­strates “a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude, a con­cern for fel­low em­ploy­ees, a will­ing­ness to work with other di­vi­sions in the park, get­ting the job done, and a love for Yosemite Na­tional Park.”


Cars line up along Tioga Road wait­ing for it to open af­ter an early snow in north­ern Yosemite Na­tional Park in 2017.


Snowfell in the Sierra Ne­vada on the last day of sum­mer, giv­ing the tow­er­ing moun­tain range shared by Cal­i­for­nia and Ne­vada a win­try look in Septem­ber and mak­ing travel haz­ardous.


Tourists drive along Tioga Road at Olm­sted Point in Yosemite.

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